One month before my twenty-first birthday, I panicked when the nurse came into my hospital room and placed a baby girl into my arms. Giving birth in the early sixties wasn’t the same as now. Husbands weren’t allowed in the delivery room to rub backs, encourage the expectant mothers nor to welcome their new babies. A heavy dose of anesthesia kept me asleep for most of the delivery. When I awakened in terrifying pain, more drugs were promptly administered to see me through the ordeal. Shortly after I regained full conscientiousness, I found myself in the room I would occupy for the next three days.
Along with the excitement of seeing my child for the first time came an overwhelming fear of failure. What did I know about taking care of babies? I had learned to cook decent meals and keep a clean, organized house while working full-time, but I didn’t feel qualified to accept the huge responsibility for another life.
It wasn’t that babies and children were foreign to me, I had been around them all my life. When older cousins married and began their families, I went to cook and clean while the mother enjoyed the new addition. When my aunt became ill, I spent a few weeks in Warner Robbins caring of her and her family. My willingness to serve thrived on the praise and admiration I received from others.
Even at school I became a willing servant. I slaved long hours on our high school’s year book, led the drive to raise money for our senior trip while serving as an officer of at least three clubs. My desire for affirmation drove me to join the Future Business Leaders, Future Homemakers, Future Teachers, Debate Team and One-Act Play—all at the same time. Just remembering makes me cringe.
At church, I accepted leadership positions. The youth took turns planning the Friday night Youth programs, including socials, teachings and skits. I even played the organ or piano when more qualified musicians weren’t available. In my adult years, I directed our church’s Family Training Hour, ran youth programs and often taught Sunday School. When I saw a need, I stepped up to volunteer. I didn’t mind waiting at the end of the pot luck line, just in case there wasn’t enough food. Or, standing at the sink until the last serving spoon had been washed and put away. I enjoyed the fellowship, along with the accolades.
Now, at age seventy-four, with years of service under my belt, a disturbing question slapped me in the face–a moment of truth that made me cry. Had I placed the role of servant above sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary? Did my Martha spirit resent those who chose the better way?
My journey of revelation took me back over a lifetime of service–way back on the farm and in my childhood church, in my marriage and the churches we attended as a family, in work experiences, and then, through the retirement years with our friends, neighborhood Bible studies and Life Group. Though I thought my motives pure, I realized that too often I served for the praise of man. Those times when my plans didn’t succeed or when I didn’t receive the accolades I expected, serving became a burden which resulted in self-pity, a critical spirit and disappointment in unfulfilled expectations.
Does God want servants? Yes, his last challenge on earth was for his followers to go and make disciples. In serving others, they would be serving him. But he first gave them the object lesson of his own sacrificial love for a lost world. In John 17, Jesus prays for them to know the Father as he knows him and to love one another as he loves–a love that isn’t self-seeking, but lays down one’s life for his friends. God wants servants who love without being judgmental, critical or hesitant–who look beyond the outward appearance and see the deeper need.
Only intimate fellowship with God can pour that kind of love into us. Unless we spend time sitting at his feet like Mary, we are subject to becoming self-serving and ineffective. God wants servants who know and understand him so well that our desires are his desires, our work, his work and our thoughts mimick his own. Only then, can we serve with pure motives and love the people he has placed in our paths.
Those many years ago, as I held my baby in my arms and allowed my love for this treasured gift to bind us together, my confidence increased and nurturing instincts kicked in. The more time I spent with my child, the more I loved her. My motives were never self-serving and my love resembled the sacrificial love that God has for me. He loves us even more than we love our families. And just as we love and nurture our children, Jesus wants to hold us close and fill us to overflowing with his love for the world.
To whom has God called you to serve? Do you have enough of his love to look beyond the way the person looks, their politics, their beliefs or their behavior? Are you ready to pour out God’s love and compassion on the next person who crosses your path?
- Lessons from God’s Word on Serving Others:
- The Story of Mary and Martha – Luke 10:38-41
- Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet – John 13:1-17
- The Incredible Love of God – John 3:16,
- Imitating Christ’s Love and Humility – Philippians 2:1-11